SEPTEMBER 19 - SEPTEMBER 23

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SEPTEMBER 19, 2011

THE ENDORSEMENT
MIAMI FIREFIGHTERS SUPPORT DONNA MILO FOR DISTRICT 2

The City of Miami Firefighters Local IAFF 587, announced their support of Donna Milo in her campaign against District 2 Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff.


There are some who had speculated that the firefighters would support Kate Callahan, but Robert Suarez, President of the union indicated that they had decided to support Milo because they felt she had the best chance of winning.


The firefighters had the Mason-Dixon Polling company do a poll of the District in August that showed that 55% of those polled would support someone other than Sarnoff.  Milo  also led the other contenders in name recognition and in a head to head contest against Sarnoff.


Milo who ran for Congress last year, has demonstrated both a clear grasp of the issues facing the voters of District 2, and the practical campaign skills needed to wage a winning campaign against Sarnoff.


While the firefighters do not bring a lot of money to a campaign, they do bring significant political experience and resources, the most important being feet on the ground, as they demonstrated when they helped Sarnoff get elected in 2006.


This time out, the firefighters, who like many others are tired of Marc Sarnoff and his antics, have decided that he has worn his welcome out in the City of Miami.

WHY DID TOMAS REGALADO REALLY GO TO TAIWAN?
PART I
THE MYSTERIOUS TRIP

On May 27th, the same day that the Miami Herald announced that World Resorts, a subsidiary of the Malaysian company, Genting, had brought the Miami Herald property for $236 million, Mayor Tomas Regalado, unbeknownst to almost everyone in the City of Miami, along his daughter Raquel, and Mirta “Mikki” Canton, a high-priced lawyer, lobbyist and wife of Pablo Canton, administrator of the City of Miami’s Coral Way NET Office, arrived in Taiwan for a 5 day visit, courtesy of the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Was their visit to Taiwan just a coincidence, or was there more to Regalado’s all but secret trip than meets the eye?

Unlike traditional economic development junkets to foreign countries where politicians make it a point to invite local business people who could potentially benefit from such a visit, this visit was shrouded in secrecy to the degree that when I requested public records from both the Mayor’s Director of International Affairs, Isabel De Quesada, and Assistant City Attorney Victoria Mendez about the specifics of this trip they denied that there were any documents.


Here is a copy of my original request:

The preposterous claim by Assistant City Attorney Mendez that: “There are no documents responsive to your request.,” regarding the above list of documents I asked for reveals to what lengths the Regalado administration was willing to go in an effort to keep the information about this trip secret.


To this day, no one from the City of Miami has provided any documents related to the above public records request that would shed light on why and how the Mayor, his daughter and Mikki Canton went to Taiwan, what they did while they were there, or if they mysteriously took a quick trip to Malaysia to meet with Genting representatives, as rumors have surfaced that they might have.


The only evidence that the trip occurred are the official press releases and photos that were turned into articles appearing in the Taiwan newspapers.


In Miami, not a word or story has ever been published or broadcast by the local media, other than mentions on several blogs, and even though Regalado representatives claims that he supposedly went to Taiwan to renew the Sister City designation with the City of Kaohsiung, the required approval for that to happen from the Miami City Commission did not occur before or after the trip.


The Mayor has never mentioned this trip, or provided any kind of written or oral report of the benefits that the trip created for the City of Miami to the City Commission, nor at any other forum that I have been able to uncover.


It was for all intents and purposes a secret trip that would never have become known had the Taiwan papers not reported on it.  But even then, they only covered 2 public events during the 5 day trip, and as a reward for flying him to Taiwan, Regalado obligingly acted as a sockpuppet to support Taiwan’s long-standing effort of trying get the United States government to grant Taiwan via-free status.


THE MIKKI CANTON CONNECTION - PART I


The appearance of Mikki Canton in March of this year as the Senior Public Policy Advisor to the Mayor of the City of Miami for Public/Private Partnerships and International Alliances, raises some now obvious questions.


Canton, who received a conflict of interest waiver from the Miami City Commission on March 24, 2011, in order to work for the Mayor, bills herself, besides being an attorney and civic do-gooder, as the Founder and CEO of Asia-Americana  International LLC.


Of all the Sister City relationships that the City of Miami has, why out of the blue was it important enough for the Taiwan Foreign Ministry to supposedly pay for a trip for Regalado, his daughter and Mikki Canton to go to Taiwan to renew the agreement, and what specific role did Canton play in all of this?

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More importantly, was this trip a cover for Regalado and Canton to meet with representatives of Genting either in Taiwan, or by flying secretly to their headquarters in Malaysia, at approximately the same time that the announcement of the purchase of the Miami Herald property was taking place here in Miami?


A foreign company does not arrive out of the blue and spend $236 million buying a sizable portion of downtown land in any city in the world without there being some previous discussion and agreement between the purchaser and the local political leaders regarding their plans for the property.


Since the initial purchase, Genting has spent an additional $200 million or so in purchasing the Omni Center property as well as several blocks of vacant land West of the Archt Center.


THE MIKKI CANTON CONNECTION - PART II: HER TIES TO THE GAMBLING COMPANY THAT BRIBED BO JOHNSON, FORMER FLORIDA SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE


In 1995, Canton, was Secretary and a Director of FLORIDA LOCALLY APPROVED GAMING, INC., one of several failed efforts that year to put an initiative on the ballot for approval by the voters.


The Florida Attorney General issued an Advisory Opinion recommending that the Florida Supreme Court reject these efforts on February 13, 1995.


Several years later, in a startling turn of events, Bo Johnson, who was the Speaker of the House during the time that Canton and her partners were trying to get their initiative on the ballot, was discovered to have been a major league crook who, while denouncing the efforts to legalize casino gambling, took hundreds of thousands in bribes, including over $250,000 from Bally Casino Holdings, Inc..


Bally Casino Holdings, Inc., was the company that had financed the efforts of Florida Locally Approved Gaming, Inc., and in an Orlando Sentinel story detailing all of Johnson’s various crooked deals, it was revealed that the principals of  Florida Locally Approved Gaming, Inc., including Mikki Canton, met with Johnson in his House office after hours to discuss the plans to mount a required petition drive.


Before the trial, a Bally executive denied that Bally had paid any money to Johnson.  By the time the trial ended, it was revealed in court that Johnson had been paid $250,000 by Bally’s, and that $170,000 of that amount had been paid to him during his term as Florida Speaker of the House to further the efforts of Florida Locally Approved Gaming, Inc..


So could Mikki Canton’s insider knowledge of how the wheels really get greased in Tallahassee and her familiarity with casino gambling and the efforts required get a gambling measure on the ballot for voter approval have been the real reasons she became the Mayor’s “Senior Policy Advisor?”


There’s certainly a lot more to know about Mikki Canton than one would learn if they relied solely on the Miami Herald or her resume for information.


THE COMMUNIST CHINESE CONNECTION


As tempting as it is to blindly accept the possibility that Regalado, Raquelita and Mikki Canton slipped off to Taiwan to meet secretly with Genting executives, there’s also the possibility that Tomas Regalado, who built a reputation and career on Latin radio and TV as a commie basher, but has developed a close relationship with representatives of the mainland Chinese communist government during his term as Mayor, is fronting for a small group of local folks interested in doing deals with mainland companies? 


As I exclusively reported back on March 18th, the Chinese Counsel General felt comfortable enough with Regalado  that she sought his assistance in trying to get Congresswoman Ilena Ros-Lehtinen to meet with her for private lunch or dinner.


THIS IS PART I OF AN ON-GOING SERIES ABOUT THE EFFORTS TO GET CASINO GAMBLING IN MIAMI.


PART II, WILL APPEAR ON WEDNESDAY.

DID THE COMPUTER EAT IT UP UP
RAQUELITA STILL CONTINUES TO BREAK THE LAW

The failure of Raquelita Regalado, the Mayor’s daughter and Miami-Dade School Board member, to file a long overdue final campaign financial report has been forwarded to the Florida Elections Commission for review and possible legal action.

Because of the refusal of Regalado to file her report - which is obviously for fear of self-incrimination - The CrespoGram Report is starting a new Countdown Clock that will keep track of how many days have passed since the final report was supposed to be filed.


On the employment front, Raquelita has gone from being a staff attorney for Malloy and Malloy to be “Of Counsel” with the law firm Feldman Gale, which is not only a downgrade in status, but while the local business press announced the hire, the law firm did not figure it merited a mention on their website.

SEPTEMBER 19, 2011

SEPTEMBER 19, 2011

The Chinese connection carries over to his brother Marcos, who has on several occasions been seen escorting Chinese visitors into private meetings with his brother at City Hall, and in Regalado’s world he has repeatedly shown that when it comes to inside deals, family comes first.


In the murky, double-cross world of Cuban exile politics, Regalado’s commie bashing has not always been believed.  Rumors and allegations swirl of Regalado’s father being a Cuban spy, and that Regalado himself has in years past met with members of Cuban intelligence in foreign lands like a character in a Graham Greene novel.


Cuban exile politics has never been for the faint of heart, and it’s almost impossible at times to sort the truth from the lies as the personal vendettas that drive so much of today’s political discourse in Miami is rooted in these tales of intrigue.


SO WHY DID THEY REALLY GO TO TAIWAN?


The only thing we can focus on now however is that as the time approaches for the Miami City Commission to tackle the many legal issues related to this Genting Resort being built on the Miami Herald property, one must by virtue of his past behavior question whether the trip by Regalado and Canton had anything to do with any secret deals that might have been reached to ease the process along.


Regalado’s persistent behavior in trying to screw the citizens of Miami makes this more than a matter of idle speculation.


It was only a little over a year ago that the City Commission, after the Regalado administration allowed Mark Siffin’s lawyers to rewrite the billboard ordinance to allow for 240 foot high LEB billboards top of a parking garage he planned to build on a portion of the same Herald property now owned by Genting, rammed that deal through lickety-split.


The complexities of this deal are far greater and hopefully subject to much more scrutiny, but Tomas Regalado has demonstrated a willingness to give away city property like it was his own, and as former Mayor Joe Carollo revealed at the budget meeting last week, this time out the city might, at the very least, be considering giving away city streets as part of this deal.

ANOTHER BLACK EYE FOR THE CITY OF MIAMI
CITY OF MIAMI FILM COMMISSIONER RESIGNS

Rob Feldman, who had been the Film Commissioner for the City of Miami for less than two months, this morning submitted a scathing letter of resignation detailing charges of attempts to politicize his office.


The claims he makes about the attempts to make him a part-time employee of the OMNI CRA, involved with promoting the yet to be reto-fitted Skill Center that the CRA purchased last November to convert into a film studio, are charges that can be laid directly at the door of Miami City Commissioner/OMNI CRA Chairman Marc Sarnoff.


The Crespo-Gram has written extensively about the efforts of Sarnoff’s ill-advised efforts to convert this warehouse into a film studio against the professional judgement of members of the South Florida film industry, who last year prepared a detailed White Paper on why the facility would not meet the requirements he claimed it would.

Over the summer, the CRA rented the building to the producers of the movie Rock Of Ages for storage of their prop vehicles, and the parking lot behind the building for parking by production vehicles for a rental fee of $5000 a month.


While the CRA’s claim continues to be that the facility, after an $11 million retrofit will become a film studio, evidence points to the strong possibility that in fact the building will become part of a new Arts & Film related Charter School using the same business plan that is used BY G STAR School Of The Arts in Palm Beach County, where they built a studio that they offer rent free for productions willing to employ and use the students.


Greg Hauptner, the founder of G Star, has been a frequent visitor to Miami since the CRA purchased the property, and was even one of the people who spoke before the City Commission recently supporting the expenditure of money for the building’s retrofit.


The notion that taxpayer money was used to buy the property, and that taxpayer money will be used to retrofit the building, only to have it become a facility that will be in direct competition with local studios is something that has been a subject of concern within the film industry for some time.

To read a larger version of the letter, click on it.

SEPTEMBER 19, 2011

June 8, 2011


Dear Ms. De Quesada,


I am revising my public records request from earlier today.  Here is my new request.


I would like a copy of ALL correspondence, whether hardcopy or email sent to, or received by Mayor Tomas Regalado and Ms. Mikki Caton,

regarding their trip to Taiwan.


This would include both documents received prior to, during, or following their trip, and including ALL correspondence between Mayor Regalado and Ms Canton with public officials, staffs of public officials and/or private individuals.  In addition to correspondence with individuals in Taiwan, this would also include individuals in Miami, and/or Florida in any way associated with Taiwan that were a party to providing assistance and/or information regarding this trip to Taiwan, as well as the Taiwan Counsel's Office and/or private individuals.


I also want any and all copies of receipts, from airlines, hotels and food, and any accompanying correspondence from any Taiwan officials who

provided the Mayor, his daughter and Ms Canton with these documents, including travel instructions, travel schedules and letters of introduction to any public or private officials in Taiwan.


I'm sure that you will endeavor to respond with more speed than you did last time, because you used up your one free pass of jerking me around on our last go around.


Thanks so much,


al crespo

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SEPTEMBER 21, 2011

POSTER OF THE DAY

You can always download any of the posters we feature by clicking HERE

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IT’S ALL ABOUT THE GAMBLING
GET READY MIAMI, THERE’S A CIRCUS COMING TO DAZZLE, BAFFLE AND SCREW
THE TAXPAYERS
PART II

Even if you believe that the American dollar is all but worthless, anytime someone plunks down $400 million of them for something, you got to figure that they have expectations that they’re going to get something of substantial value for that money.


Genting, the Singapore gambling company that is being touted as the newest in a long line of saviors for the boom and bust South Florida economy has recently laid out close to $400 million for a sizable chunk of property in and around the Miami Herald, including giving local developer George Perez of the Related Group, a $60 million windfall to buy him and his partners out of their Omni Center mortgage.


When you spend that kind of money on the come, just how much do you think Genting will pay out to the political whores in Tallahassee and Miami that need to generate the necessary paperwork to build a casino inside the currently vacant Omni Center next year?


Now mind you, I raise this question not out of opposition to gambling - I on occasion have been known to help finance education through slot machines and lottery tickets - but rather from the perspective of how willing the politicians will be during the coming feeding frenzy as they clamor for a piece of this action, to shit on and screw the taxpayers out of any real long-term financial benefits in order to placate the demands of Genting, and whoever else bellies up to the bar in an effort to get a casino license in Florida.


The only certainty in Genting’s plans is that they are first, foremost, and will always be concerned about operating the biggest casino they can get away with.


All the pretty architectural renderings, and all the slick promotional videos promoting a resort or lifestyle of living around a casino cannot gloss over that fact.


IT ONLY TOOK THEM 45 DAYS TO REVEAL THEIR TRUE INTENTIONS


Genting has only been in Miami since May 27th, and already they misrepresented their intentions in a very major way.


On July 30th, the Miami Herald wrote how Genting planned to do things differently:


        “If Genting eventually gets approval to build a

        casino in Miami, it would not be located on the

        first floor like a typical Las Vegas casino hotel.

        Because of the elevation of the site, it can’t be

        built underground as Genting has done at other

        locations. Instead, it would go on an upper floor

        of one of the hotels, Fort-Brescia says. The casino

        would take up no more than five to 10 percent of

        the entire site plan.”


On September 15th, the Miami Herald was reporting that:


        “In order to help win legislators’ approval for a

        casino, Genting revealed that it had gained

        control over the entire mortgage on the troubled

        Omni Center, currently in foreclosure. Genting

        plans to turn that complex into the first stage of

        Resorts World Miami, opening a casino with

        restaurants, bars and entertainment facilities

        as soon as next fall — if approval comes from

        legislators for a gambling license.”


Looks like a Las Vegas style, street level casino is what Genting was planning all along.  And given the size of the Omni Center, you can bet that they’ll soon be bragging about how big their casino is going to be.


When people gush about what a game changer Genting’s Resort project will be, they need to appreciate that the volume of gamblers needed to generate a profit will require turning big chunks of the property West of the PAC into multi-level parking garages to accommodate the steady stream of day gamblers, and where we can expect Mark Siffin - who has been very low key lately - will finally manage to get his 250 foot LED billboards installed.


GENTING’S ALLEGED ORGANIZED CRIME CONNECTIONS


In years past, people in Miami would have expected the Miami Herald to do real reporting on the background of a company like Genting. 


Unfortunately, because the Herald has been compromised, the coverage detailing allegations of Genting’s organized crime connections, including the relationship between K.T. Lim of Genting, and Stanley Ho, the Asian casino magnate, who has been barred from having casino licenses in any place other than Macau and North Korea is now left to bloggers and independent journalists like Nick Kakanis, the editor and publisher of Florida Clarion.  They are the ones expected to provide the kind of overview on Genting’s history and behavior in other parts of the world that once would have been the backbone of Herald coverage.


I would recommend that you bookmark this site as a source for the kinds of stories that you’ll never read in the Miami Herald about Genting.


WHAT HAPPENS TO THE CITY’S PROPERTY?


At the last City Commission meeting on the new budget, former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo spoke about the possibility that Genting would absorb several of the city streets and the air rights above those streets, and that the City Commission should not let this happen without adequate compensation for this extremely valuable property.


Commissioner Willie Gort was quick to respond that the city would not give away any city streets.  Of course, this is the same Willie Gort, who as Chairman of the Commission was not so quick to protect the interests of the city’s sovereignty when he allowed a lawyer connected to the maquinita owners to prosecute the case to fire the Chief of Police.  Depending on Commissioner Willie Gort to look out for the interests of the citizens is like depending on a fox to protect the henhouse.


But what of Joe Carollo’s claim?  It’s always hard to make assumptions from architectural renderings, but it does appear from the renderings that make up the promotional video for this project that at least a portion of NE 14th Street might be reduced, if not eliminated to accommodate the projected plans (PURPLE BOX), and the other highlighted portions in RED, represent streets who’s air rights might be covered over by buildings. 

Against this backdrop, consider Genting plans as revealed by the Miami Herald on September 15th:


            “Genting’s plans unveiled Wednesday night

            include four hotels, two condominium towers,

            casino, convention center, more than 50

            restaurants and bars and a luxury retail

            shopping mall. The casino would require a

            change in state law.”


In addition to these “50 restaurants, bars and a luxury retail shopping mall,” factor in the hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail space projected by the Squire project to the South of Flagler Street along SW 8th Street and Miami Avenue, and then ponder the impact of a recently revealed deal to build a Walmart at the northern edge of Overtown, 4 of 5 blocks from Flagler Street, as part of the proposed Carlisle settlement agreement with the CRA that I wrote about on July 11th.


Consider what the cumulative affect of all of this new retail space will have on the ability of the current downtown business owners to compete against this onslaught of new development.


What could all of this new retail development portend for the historical center of Miami? Just how much helter-skelter development does anyone seriously believe downtown Miami can accommodate without slipping further into becoming a permanently  blighted area?


Here is the map that the Genting folks are using to project the positive impact of the project. ALL of the portion highlighted in Yellow is to the EAST of Biscayne Boulevard.

Joe Carollo is right to argue that if in fact any of these portions of city land end up being incorporated into the building plans, then the city deserves adequate compensation. The problem, given the past behavior of the City Commission is to insure proper compensation BEFORE AND NOT AFTER the property gets absorbed by the developers, should this come to pass.


COMMISSIONER SARNOFF’S VISION OF THE FUTURE INCLUDES SCREWING THOSE LIVING IN THE PRESENT


        “You’re looking at the new spoke in the middle of

        the wheel,” said Miami City Commissioner Marc

        Sarnoff, whose district includes the performing arts

        district. “The Omni area in 20 years will be the new

        core of downtown Miami.”


                                    Commissioner Marc Sarnoff

                                    Miami Herald,  9/9/11


Leave it to Commissioner “Ethics” to play the role of visionary.


The only problem is that the Commissioner is also the current Chairman of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), who’s responsibility is in dealing with the present, a task he has handled by making sure that the board of the DDA is populated with his friends and cronies.

From the very beginning, the City of Miami - a relatively new city in historical terms - never understood or benefited from smart urban planning.


Take the narrow streets of downtown Miami.  These were not streets laid out by visionaries who conceived of Miami becoming a real city of the future.  The problems that beset downtown Miami today were in part created by that lack of vision.


Much of the ballyhoo of recent years associated with the construction of high-rise condos in the downtown area and the hype of a resurgent and vibrant downtown has mostly been generated by the real estate folks looking to sell the thousands of unoccupied condos that glutted the market after the collapse of the market.


Yes, many of the condo’s have subsequently been sold, but not that many people actually live in them full-time. 


Contrary to all the self-promotional PR fluff put out by the Downtown Development Authority, Flagler Street after 6 PM continues to be a deserted no-man’s land.


Flagler Street at 7:00 PM on a weekday night in August.

With all of this in mind, one of the things that needs to watched very carefully is how will Commissioner “Ethics” Sarnoff - if he is re-elected - reward his cronies and campaign contributors as this Genting project moves forward


Only months ago in his role of the Chairman of the OMNI CRA, Sarnoff led the effort to give Tibor Hollo and his son Jerome, of Florida East Coast Reality (see Jerome’s photo above), a sweetheart $9 million tax rebate from money supposedly allocated to reduce slum and bight for a new hotel that will be built across the street from the north end of the OMNI Center where Genting will build their casino. 


The Hollo’s also received a cutout from the DDA boundaries on their Opera Tower project in the same area.


The one thing that can be counted on in all of this feeding frenzy surrounding the arrival of the Genting folks, is that in the City of Miami, Commissioner “Ethics” Sarnoff, will be at the front of the pack figuring out whatever angles he can to make sure that he and his pals are locked into the deal flow.


THERE WILL BE PIGS AT THE TROUGH


In my last post I wrote about the scummy behavior of former Florida Speaker of the House Bo Johnson, and how he had managed to pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, including money from Bally’s Casino Holding, Inc., who had financed the operation of a group fronting for Bally’s trying to get a casino initiative on the ballot, that included our homegirl and current Senior Policy Advisor to His Ignorance, Mikki Canton.


Although there could be any number of reasons why someone dropped the dime on Johnson, the only surprise, if one could consider it a surprise, is that in the years since, more state legislators haven’t been tagged for selling their votes, since legal and illegal bribery is the biggest revenue generator that occurs in Tallahassee when the legislature is in session.


This year lobbyists reported being paid $55.1 million to influence legislation in Tallahassee. There is no telling how much money they were paid that didn’t get reported, or how much of what they were paid was shared with their favorite legislator.


Among the big spenders, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel, were casino companies once again intent on getting approval for what are now described as “Destination Casino/Resorts.”


No matter how many millions they spent this year, next year you can expect the amount paid to pro and anti-casino lobbyists will be grow exponentially.  All the players, big and small, who didn’t get in on the first round of the feeding frenzy last year will be trying to elbow their way to the trough to cash in on this once in a decade money drop.


For folks in Miami, one of the key players that need to be watched will be Harkley Thornton. Along with his partner Santiago Echemendia, Thornton is the fellow who, when the city wouldn’t give them a billboard license, first sued the city and after losing, proceeded to get his boyhood pal and current Florida Speaker of the House, Dean Cannon, to insert the poison pill language into the FDOT bill that would have crippled the city from collecting more than $500 in license fees from the billboard companies.


Thornton has now become one of the many lobbyists for Genting obviously based on his relationship to Speaker Cannon. 

The desire of Thornton and Echemendia to become billboard players in the City of Miami is still an open issue, and given their efforts to use everything from a lawsuit to poison pill language as a way to force the city to accommodate them, Thornton’s new role as a lobbyist for Genting offers new possibilities of leveraging that connection in wonderful and mysterious ways to dazzle the nitwits like City Manager Johnny “The Doormat” Martinez.


WHAT’S TO COME


The next year or so promises to be one where the local inside players will be working every angle they can to make sure they cash in by wringing in every dollar they can from Genting and anyone else who looks like they have deep pockets.  It’s the American Way of doing business. 


So is the expectation that the taxpayers and the citizens of Miami will be screwed along the way.  We live in a time of transition, and the watchdogs that in the past could be depended on to be the eyes and conscience of the community have forsaken that role this time for a piece of the action.


The only referee in a free-for-all like this capable of reigning in the crooked politicians are law enforcement agencies, who like forestry officials, have it in their power to come in and clear away as many crooked politicians as they can legally slap handcuffs on in much the same way that forest rangers clear out the underbrush before the forest fire season.


When integrity and trust goes, the only weapon against corruption is fear and imprisonment.

SEPTEMBER 21, 2011

SEPTEMBER 23, 2011

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CA-CHING, CA-CHING
MANNY ALONSO POCH’S SCHOOL CAUGHT TRYING TO CHARGE ILLEGAL SCHOOL FEES
  ILLEGAL  SCHOOL  FEES
    DEAD                     BEAT

According to a recent Miami Herald article, Charter Schools are becoming a big business in South Florida, as more and more parents decide that these schools provide the kinds of specialized, quality education that they want for their children.


When it comes to providing a REALLY UNIQUE educational experience, the kids at the Arts & Minds Academy in Coconut Grove continue to get a kind of specialized education that few kids anywhere else in Miami-Dade County are exposed to thanks to Manny Alonso Poch.


Poch is the Co-Founder, landlord, food service provider and now head of the management company running the school.  In each of these capacities, he’s collecting money.


But that it seems, is not enough for Poch who seems to like living large. 


The problem with having 3 or 4 streams of revenue of taxpayer money that supposed to be spent on children’s education going into the same pockets is that it’s sometimes hard to accommodate the actual costs of running a school with the money left over.


One of the biggest signs that a Charter School is having financial problems is the inability to retain teachers, and Arts & Minds supposedly started the school year with a new/replacement teacher ratio of 72%.


To try and solve what appears to be an serious financial problem, Alonso Poch and his hand-picked Governing Board is waging a campaign to get as many as 500 kids jammed into his building on Commodore Drive in the middle of Coconut Grove.


They also left no financial stone unturned by starting to  charge fees for everything from office supplies to books: Illegally as it turned out.


These illegal fees seem to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, as evidenced by the Miami-Dade School Board’s Notice of Non-Compliance letter they sent earlier this week to Arts & Minds.  (See below. )


Ms. Ruth Montaner, listed as the Governing Board Chairwoman is Manny Alonso Poch’s first cousin, whose husband and son were convicted of  Medicare Fraud.


In a continuing example of the 2 degrees of Separation that rules Miami’s criminal and political infrastructure, Montaner’s husband’s first encounter with Federal prosecutors was in the 1990’s when he managed to get acquitted in the Medicare Fraud scheme that sent former US Attorney and  State Senator Al Gutman to prison.  Gutman came out of prison to become a partner in Cuban Crafters, that was the topic of allegations in the recent hearing to fire Police Chief Miguel Exposito.


Montaner on the other hand parleyed his acquittal into a bigger scheme that eventually sent him away as a Medicare Fraud mastermind.


Do you wonder what kind of a city Miami might be if they could load up about 500 of these 2 Degree of Separation folks on buses and ship them somewhere else?


To read a larger version of the letter, along with all the exhibits attached, click on the copy below.

It will be interesting to see how the Miami-Dade School Board handle this situation, given that they haven’t handled the complaints submitted by parents several months ago.


Whatever happens, the Crespo-Gram Report will stay on top of this story.

SEPTEMBER 23, 2011

THE BIKE CAPER

Former Mayor Manny Diaz receiving a bicycle as a gift at his Going-Away Party.

WHO REALLY ORDERED THE INVESTIGATION

Shortly after Manny Diaz left his job as Mayor of Miami there was a big hula-la-boo about a bicycle being “stolen” from the Mayor’s Office, and accusations that Diaz had pedaled down the road with it.


The missing bicycle became the subject of a Miami Police Task Force investigating corruption, and it generated numerous snarky comments in the news media including this one from Miami Herald columnist Jackie Bueno Sousa:


    “First there was the zeal with which Miami police, soon

    after Exposito's appointment, investigated the alleged

    theft of city property by former Mayor Manny Diaz,

    Regalado's political foe. Miami police put their newly

    formed public-corruption unit on the hunt for a missing

    bicycle. Turned out the bike was never city property; it

    was a parting gift to Diaz, paid for by staff.”


It even made the British Cycling Magazine, Road CC.

All of this happened before I cruised into town and started making people aware of the wonderful benefits of getting public documents as a way to separate the bullshit from the truth, so back then, no one seems to have actually asked a pretty relevant question:  “Hey Chief, who told you to look for this missing bike?”


Instead, the media went with the story that the investigation was politically motivated and was the brainchild of the Chief,  as evidenced by Fred Grimm’s retelling of the incident in his column at the time of the hearing to fire the Chief.

Notice that Grimm only starts affixing any blame to Regalado‘s activities in the next paragraph on unrelated issues.


So, just to set the record straight so everyone understands who actually asked for the investigation, here is the email from Mayor Tomas Regalado to Chief Miguel Exposito, asking that Internal Affairs conduct an investigation.

One can argue, with cause, that in those early Honeymoon Days after he was appointed, the Chief was eager to carry out the requests and orders of the man who had made him Chief, but it should never be forgotten that when it came to waging political vendettas, the person pulling the strings was Regalado, not Exposito.


Of course, once again, if you look at the email heading, this reveals the Mayor of Miami violating the City Charter by ignoring the City Manager in making his request directly to the Chief, but at this point, violating the City Charter has become so ingrained within the Regalado administration that the Charter might just as well be thrown in a garbage can for all the protection it provides against the abuse of power by Regalaso and any of the other corrupt politicians at City Hall.

OUR NIGHTMARE IS OVER
RAQUELITA FINALLY FILES HER LAST CAMPAIGN REPORT

It only took Raquelita Regalado 294 days, and 2 posts on the Crespo-Gram Report pointing out her failure, for her to finally file her long overdue final campaign report. We apologize for our clock running all the way to 306 days, but the folks up in Tallahassee weren’t too helpful in providing us information when we called.


Now that the final report has been filed, the next hurdle that Raquelita faces is the fine that is spelled out in Florida Statute 106.07 (8)(b) calling for a fine in the neighborhood of $43,000, based on her final receipts and expenditures.

Let’s see how long it takes to levy this fine, what the actual amount will be, and then how long it takes Raquelita to pay it, and in the interim, notice that the report below arrived at the Election office without a signature.


We’ll adjust our Countdown clock accordingly.

SEPTEMBER 23, 2011

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